University of Oxford
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John Ford - Reserved Occupation

online resource
posted on 2024-06-05, 19:09 authored by Their Finest Hour Project Team

John Ford was born on Friday December 17 1919 at 84 Egerton Road, South Shields. In 1939, he enlisted in the Royal Engineers, Territorial Army, "Terriers" as he used to call them. On the 6th November 1939 whilst at Stokesley, Yorkshire doing basic training, he was with a group of men engaged in dismantling some old Nissen huts when an accident occurred. The wind caught one of the sections and blew it over. John was unable to jump out of the way in time and the section crushed his ankle, he was then put on"light duties" after this.

He then joined the 2nd Tyneside Anti Aircraft Battery Searchlight Unit and operated searchlights to assist in the detection of enemy bombers who were bombing South Shields and Tyneside.

In 1938, he started work at Vickers Armstrong in Newcastle and so was regarded as "Reserved Occupation. This meant that he was unable to join the army as his work at Vickers was considered vital to the war effort. He was working as a machine operator and worked on big lathes, making very large naval guns for warships.

At Vickers, they introduced 12-hour shifts hoping to increase productivity but the time taken preparing to go to Newcastle and then over one hour to get to work meant for him that he was engaged in a 16-hour day! Because of this, people were falling asleep in the factory and he mentioned that some of his workmates fell asleep and fell into the huge rotating machines! So they had to abandon those long shifts because of all the injuries to essential workers.

After the war, he received a small 20% pension which was regularly reduced and he had to challenge this to get it increased.

After the war, he carried on being a machinist and died in 2014, aged 95.

Audio and transcription attached.


Item list and details

1 John Ford in 1939 in Royal Engineers uniform

Person the story/items relate to

John Ford

Person who shared the story/items

Terry Ford

Relationship between the subject of the story and its contributor


Type of submission

Shared at Ocean Road Community Centre, Tyne and Wear on 18 November 2023. The event was organised by South Shields Local History Group.

Record ID

100142 | SSH037